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Judge won't drop state charges against teen sniper defendant

Change of venue motion to be decided within 30 days

Lee Boyd Malvo, center, seen last fall.
Lee Boyd Malvo, center, seen last fall.

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FAIRFAX, Virginia (CNN) -- A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge Monday said she would decide within 30 days whether to move the trial of teenage sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo.

Defense attorneys argued that the trial should be moved from the Washington, D.C. area because of the impact the three-week shooting spree had on residents of the area and because of the enormous publicity the case has attracted.

Prosecutor Robert Horan, however, said that Judge Jane Marum Roush should attempt to seat a jury in Fairfax County before looking to move the case elsewhere.

Horan noted that a number of other high-profile cases have been tried in Fairfax County, including the 1997 trial of Mir Aimal Kafi, a Pakistani national who was convicted of a shooting spree outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Malvo is charged with the shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin. His alleged accomplice, John Allen Muhammad, faces trial in neighboring Prince William County for the October 9, 2002, shooting of Dean Harold Meyers in Manassas, Virginia.

Together, Malvo and Muhammad have been charged with 10 killings in the Washington, D.C. area last fall, and have been linked to slayings in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Washington state.

Earlier Monday, Roush rejected a motion by attorneys for Malvo, who argued that a state murder trial could not go forward because Malvo had already been indicted for the same crime by federal authorities.

Malvo, 18, was indicted in the federal system, but the indictment was dropped and he was transferred to Virginia.

Roush said the federal criminal information charging Malvo with murders in Maryland and elsewhere "simply does not touch upon the crimes that are charged in this case."

The judge said Malvo could face the state charges in the October 14, 2001, sniper-style shooting of Franklin outside a Home Depot store.

Separately, Roush granted a defense motion that a handwriting expert be hired. Roush ruled that Malvo's attorneys could hire handwriting expert Richard Williams for no more than $2,500 to analyze notes left at the scenes of two sniper shootings.

Malvo attorney Mark Petrovich argued that determining who wrote the notes could show the "relative roles of the alleged participants."

Prosecutor Horan said he did not intend to introduce handwriting evidence, but would introduce evidence that Malvo's DNA was found on a zip-locked bag that held the note found at the shooting October 20 of Conrad Johnson and on a Dole raisin bag found near a sniper shooting in Ashland, Virginia, three days earlier.

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